U6P2: Snow – Thomas Baker

!: The author views younger people as more conservative, a notion very different from perceptions of younger people today.

?: How does he reconcile the necessity for specialization because of our limited lifespans and the finite amount of knowledge an individual can accumulate?

Experiments I knew: Eratosthenes, Mendel, Curie, Newton, Pavlov, Millikan, Young, Paine.

Theories I knew: All except for information theory

U6P1: Black Girl Linguist Play By Thomas B.

!: I liked the idea that was outlined as a basis of the dance, the idea that the innocence and story of childhood are universally understood, but also the physical language and movements were a unique cultural language understood by black women for black women. I think the ultimate thing that this work “does” is it helps the performers understand their own identity and place.

?: How can white people better understand their own identity in a white supremacist society? How does a white supremacist structure impose stereotypes and identity on the oppressed and the oppressor?

U5P1: Back Into The Swing By Thomas Baker

Schneider:

!: The idea of performance being temporary and “un-archivable” isn’t counter to our Western way of thinking but rather a result of the narrow definition we allot to archive. The memory and body should be investigated as valid forms of history.

“‘ It is in accord with archival logic that performance is given to disappear, and mimesis (always an entangled and complicated relationship to the performative) is, in line with a long history of anti-theatricalism, debased if not downright feared as destructive of the pristine ideality of all things marked ‘original’.” Pg. 102

?: If we redefine what is considered a reputable form of storage, how do we reconcile the common necessity of accuracy in our recording. Why does the author assume that archives and precision are primarily western? That, in a sense, seems like exoticism. This idea of other cultures as spiritual and different, when in fact many cultures value written word and precision. The Chinese had one of the earliest forms of the printing press for example.

Birns:

!: Birns uses time as a motivator for the banality of evil in reference to place when discussing the history of racial violence that took place at mundane places like storefronts or bridges.

“On November 26, 2001, the site may be an unremarkable spot under cloudy skies, but tracing the history of the place testifies to memories of a very different era.” Pg 20.

?: If it is the natural course for evil to have a half-life in society’s eye, what are the most effective ways we as a society can instill reminders that keep the evil fresh?

Campus Event: Macbeth – Thomas Baker

I had never seen Macbeth before but I had read fragments of the story in my high school English class, so I was really looking forward to seeing it. The show also had some of the best actors I had met at Davidson in the short time I had been here. While watching it though, I was a little disappointed. Not in the individual acting, which I thought was fantastic, but in the pacing of the show. I haven’t seen any other performance of Macbeth, so I have no reference as to what the normal pacing is, but I personally found the pacing very slow. Many times I caught myself falling asleep and losing track of the overall plot, only to be brought back in by an individual’s monologue or performance. But perhaps I just don’t understand what the director was trying to do or his artistic vision. I also thoroughly enjoyed the design choices for the set and costumes. I am a big fan of simple sets, props, and costumes because it allows the focus to be on the acting instead of relying on eye candy. The bare set and militaristic costumes added to the overall mood, but the subtle, neutral coloring allowed me to focus directly on the actor’s faces. I also want to add that most of the people I went with really enjoyed the play. Carson especially thought it was fantastic, and he had seen Macbeth performed a couple of different times. I was in the minority of those who didn’t like it.

Campus Event: Shakespeare Unabridged – Thomas Baker

Shakespeare abridged script, William is depicted with a clown nose
Source: https://tinyurl.com/u52qyxm

I typically am a fan of Shakespeare and am decently acquainted with his work, though not an expert by any means. However, I didn’t know what to expect coming into this show, and it was nothing like I had tried to imagine it. The play is titled The Complete Works of Shakespeare (unabridged). Contrary to its somewhat fancy-sounding name, this was actually a parody piece full of crude humor and slap-stick comedy. Once I removed my preconceived notions about what Shakespeare should be, I actually really enjoyed it. Part of my enjoyment I think was out of pure respect. The show had a cast of two! Not only is slapstick, physical humor extremely hard to pull off, but the two actors had to carry the energy of the entire show by themselves. Not to mention the fact that they had to memorize loads of character’s lines across all of Shakespeare’s plays. I think anyone who is looking for a short, light-hearted form of entertainment would very much enjoy the show, but someone expecting a serious piece of Shakespearean art would be quite disappointed.

Campus Event: Anthony Foxx – Thomas Baker

Growing up around Charlotte, I was familiar with the name Anthony Foxx but I didn’t know much about him other than the fact that he had been our mayor and served on Obama’s cabinet. I heard that he was coming to Davidson through my involvement with the Davidson Democrats and also learned that he had been head of the Department of Transportation. Doesn’t sound nearly as interesting as Department of Defense or Secretary of State, but I went because a lot of my friends were attending. I’m glad I did though because it completely changed my perspective and made me reconsider my entire career. He talked about how transportation infrastructure and city planning intersects race, healthcare, and the economy. I had never thought of it that way before. The way highways, bridges, and tunnels are used to segregate races and classes. He also mentioned how the work he did directly impacted the everyday lives of Americans. A lot of policy decisions are so abstract that it can be a while before they impact the everyday citizen, but people use roads, trains, hospitals, sidewalks, etc every single day. I went back to my dorm and binged city planning and development videos until 5 am, and I had an 8:30 class! I now have realized my love for healthcare isn’t in being a doctor directly but in public health and city government.

Davidson Democrats with Anthony Foxx

U3P4: Stories Over Statistics – Thomas Baker

One of the commonalities I have been thinking about since reading these two texts has been the theme of looking at the little things in the midst of a large catastrophe.

 When it comes to events that impact millions of people, like wars, genocide, and disasters, it can be easy to get lost in the facts. Overlooking the stories for the statistics. Watching the death toll rise like a new high score. 6 million Jews killed. Bar set. Oh, this atrocity had only 800,000 deaths. At least it wasn’t as bad.  

As harsh as this sounds, I think this is a subconscious coping mechanism that most people today experience. What these stories do differently is they make the case for telling stories, not just listing facts. We learn names, imagine places, make connections to actual people. Sontag makes an argument for the power of a photograph and looking at a pair of human eyes. She explains the pitfalls of not being able to smell, hear, and taste the realities of other people’s lives. Gourevitch, on pages 111-112, decides to tell us about an old man who really loved watching TV because he was handicapped. These seemingly inconsequential details allow us to understand the reality of events we didn’t personally experience.

U3P3: Passport – Thomas

Much like the seemingly random and arbitrary status of who is stateless and who isn’t, I randomly drew the status of being stateless. This had nothing to do with my character or anything I had done previously. The story I received was of a mother, a Norwegian citizen who went to India for in-vitro fertilization. She had a medical condition throughout her life, and finally, she had found a way to fulfill a dream of hers.  An unforeseen problem arose, however. 

On the birth certificate given to the mother in India, she was the mother. However biologically, the sperm and egg sourced for the surgery were from two Indian citizens. Based on the DNA test, the Norwegian government recognized her babies as Indian citizens and declined visas into the country. The Indian government, on the other hand, recognized the birth certificate. The Indian government argued that the two babies were Norwegian citizens. Thus she was trapped in India with no support network and her two newborn children. 

This story really infuriated me because of how arbitrary and idiotic it was. This doesn’t even boil down to a moral or philosophical debate about immigration, but rather an idiotic failure of immigration policy. The mom was ALREADY a citizen and did nothing wrong. This really shined a light on how antiquated our policy for naturalization is. One’s blood or the location of where they are born, shouldn’t define how we treat them before they are old enough to think.

10 Million People in the world have no nationality

U3P2: Sontag – Thomas Baker

Chapter 1

In chapter 1, we are introduced to the dialogue of Virginia Woolf and a lawyer who are discussing the question of “How in your (Woolf) opinion are we to prevent war”? Woolf uses this as an opportunity to discuss how men play a key role in a war. She believes that men glorify and find a certain satisfaction in war more so than women. Woolf then shifts the conversation to how photographs can be used to prevent war, but also how they can be used to perpetuate war. When shown a photograph of the destruction and death caused by war, the conclusion of all moral humans is usually along the lines of “We need to end war”. However, when the destruction of war is shown alongside a caption that identifies the victims, the photographs can inspire war. A photograph of mutilated Palestinians shown to Palestinians can be used to motivate and inspire war in the name of justice. 

Photographs have a unique ability to motivate people to stop a war or continue a war. 

Chapter 6

We look at the philosophies of Freud, Plato, and others in order to explore the human interest and reaction to that which is morbid. Some interest can be linked to a kind of repressed sexual response, but Sontag decides to explore morbid images that don’t have any sexual connotation. She parallels Plato’s trichotomy of the brain with Freud’s theory of Id, Ego, and Superego. They both explain how humans have a moral calling to not look at morbid images, however, we have a naturalistic desire to look. When witness to a car crash, a lot of humans slow down secretly wanting to see something shocking. This disconnect between our morals and desires can create a kind of frustration. She then explores how this reaction can apply to photos. Photos play to our sympathy because we are looking at a once-living being like us, creating a personal connection. However, this sympathy will quickly wilt in a drought of hopelessness and fear if it is not tended to with a clear plan for action. 

Sympathy will only continue to grow if action is taken, otherwise, it turns into indifference. 

Chapter 8:

Sontag asks us to differentiate between memory and remembering. She says we are morally responsible for being conscious of the atrocities that humankind is capable of. However a memory of something is static, but remembering something is a verb. It requires thinking about and reflecting on. It is our duty not to let memories of past events fade, but to actively remember them. She then outlines the ways in which photographs alienate us from atrocities, because we are able to sit back and selectively look at them. We don’t have to smell them, hear them, taste them, or feel them. However, this isn’t necessarily bad. She ends with the notion that one can’t think while also throwing a punch. If don’t have to throw a punch, it is our duty to remember. 

We must actively remember the atrocities that humans are capable of.

Thomas Baker U2P2: If People Want Bullshit, Give Them Bullshit

Option 1: 

“Any belief, however unlikely it may appear, can be saved from refutation if you’re willing to make enough secondary elaborations.” Is the student right?

The student is correct but only within the context of an individual schema or set of beliefs. In chemistry, inconsistencies can be explained with secondary elaborations but only if one buys into the overarching validity of chemistry. A Christian can explain apparent inconsistencies using a Christian framework, but again this is only valid if someone buys into the Christian worldview. Every conceptual scheme has inconsistencies. Attempts are made to explain or bend our understanding of the world to fit inside an individual’s or society’s accepted conceptual scheme. This is because our world is too complex to be understood through one lens of understanding, but instead, it is best viewed through many lenses that have their own truths and explanations within. This reminds me of the fishbowl view of physics. The idea is that we live within a fishbowl and are looking outside of it through the distorted lens. We are able to make formulas and calculations from inside the fishbowl that correctly predict the movement of objects that we can see through the round fishbowl. From within the fishbowl, all of our math and conceptual schemes work and seem valid. However, if you left the distorted glass of the fishbowl and looked at how the world actually was, none of the calculations would work. This doesn’t mean that the calculations aren’t true, just that they are only true within a specific conceptual system.  

Option 2:

Reducing the amount of “bullshit” in the world is a difficult task because there is very little to fight. There is no oppressive regime limiting information or forcing beliefs to fight against. Ironically, the problem is there is too much available information that we are now choosing not to research things. There is so much information, that each person can craft their own reality and find information or sources to back up almost any claim. And in a society that is moving so quickly, most people don’t have the time or energy to ensure they are fully informed on their political decisions. We are living in a world where people will spend 5$ to have someone drop a 2$ bagel off at their house, the priority in our world is convenience. We don’t live in a convenient reality, issues are complicated and bound by shades of grey. So when media outlets offer a convenient story in a convenient medium it is what people choose. In one sense I’m tempted to say there is nothing wrong with this system. It is the result of giving people the freedom to do what they wish, it is a democracy. If we did want people to invest more time in their political and personal beliefs, we need to take care of things like their economic stability, household

Unit 2 Post 2: Bound by Language, Thomas Baker

Responding to the Panel:

I felt trapped after listening to that panel, trapped within my own language. I have always wanted to be able to dream or think in another language. I feel bound by English and my monolingualism. The panel emphasized how a language is not just the flavor in which we communicate, but rather it shapes our cognitive structure and the way we view the world. Someone fluent in Greek or Arabic understands the world in a different way than I do, they don’t live in the same world. I assume the important part of an object is based on the framework of English. Another language might be interested in the essence of the object, the parts of an object as opposed to the whole, or maybe less interested in the object itself but what the object isn’t. There is an arrogance in a single language in that it forces you to assume there is only one way of thinking. In this sense, even reason isn’t elevated above perception as thought by Plato. For reason is bound by the biased nature of linguistics. Our linguistics shape our framework of the world. Does anything’s true form exist outside of our language? How are we trapped by language?

Going Rogue: 

My roommate, Nick, is from Greece and a result I often help him translate between Greek and English while he is writing. We have discovered that Greek is a more expressive and emotional language than English so the direct translation of the word he is looking for in English, often loses a lot of meaning or is awkward. This is usually where I come in to help him find a better replacement. The other night, he was trying to find an English translation for the Greek word “πατρίδα”(patrída). It is a noun similar in nature to a “sense of patriotism for Greece” or “The essence of Greece”. The direct translation to English is the word “Homeland”. This word conveys none of the emotional meaning. A simple google search proved this for us. The word homeland brings up the TV show, while πατρίδα brings up a lot of greek imagery. The closest noun equivalent we found for the United States was the word “Liberty”. Liberty has a closer social context to πατρίδα than homeland.

Scientific Revolution – Thomas Baker

Mathematics, as it stands right now, is something that helps to define science from the humanities; however, this is primarily based on two reasons. 

The questions in which science aims to answer have gotten very narrow in scope, making it much easier to build mathematical models. The broader nature of humanities and the questions it investigates would require much more creative and complicated math than we currently have the ability to comprehend. I think new, arising fields in the social sciences are perfect indicators at early attempts to answer questions of humanity using empirical and mathematical strategies. Psychology, Anthropology, and Geography have tried to map human thought, movement, purpose, and culture in terms of numbers and experiments. We can also look at advancements in computer programing, bioinformatics, and neural networks to see how future mathematical formulas and setups may help us organize governments, ascertain meaning, and answer philosophical questions. 

The second reason that mathematics is associated with science currently, is the false dichotomy that has arisen. Our culture drives a dividing line between “STEM” and “Humanities”, so attempts to synthesize ideas by combining the methods of both fields of study aren’t popular in our intellectual zeitgeist. 

Mathematics is currently a distinctive feature of science, but it doesn’t have to be and the divide will continue to break down as advances in technology allow us to answer broader questions with mathematical systems.  

Does the growing shift of looking to science for meaning correlate to growing levels of suicide, anxiety, and depression? Is science equipped to provide meaning?